Last week’s burst of warmer weather has helped to soften the blow of a temporary relaxation of Sunday trading restrictions, but independent retailers continue to maintain that the law change was both unwelcome and unnecessary.
Store owners had been fearful of the impact that extended opening hours for large stores and supermarkets would have on trade, but many are reporting relief that the new regime had coincided with a rare period of good summer weather.
Norfolk Budgens retailer Jinx Hundal said sales in his small stores were up compared with the same week last year thanks to the weather. “The sales figures have been distorted by the weather, but the change in laws hasn’t hurt us yet,” he said. And despite several of his stores being over the 3,000sq ft threshold, Jinx is fearful of a permanent relaxation. “The way it is now is right for the industry,” he added. “A permanent relaxation would be the final nail in the coffin for independent retailers.”
“We didn’t see a drop in business, but there is no need for the local supermarkets to be open. I would have thought no more than a five-mile radius around any Olympic venue is necessary.”
Barns Green Village Store, West Sussex
“It’s been a lot quieter over the past two Sundays. I think we were down by £800 on the second Sunday when usually that’s one of our busiest periods of the week.”
Simply Fresh, Stourbridge, West Midlands
“The last two Sundays have been quieter than normal, but thankfully it’s been sunny so people are still coming in here on their way to the beach.”
Western Newsagents, Hove, East Sussex
Punit Patel of Nisa Weyhill Stores in Andover, Hampshire, saw an average sales drop of £600 over the past two Sundays, but believes it could have been much worse if not for the weather. “If it had been raining then I think it would have been a lot worse,” he said.
The suspension, which could cost the convenience sector an estimated £480m, will last until September 9. The government has denied that the move is a test case for a permanent relaxation.
Waitrose said that most of its shops would remain open for two extra trading hours, while more than 160 Morrisons stores and 30 Sainsbury’s stores are opening later. Tesco opened 200 of its stores for up to 24 hours and extended hours at others.
Not all retailers with large stores took advantage of the relaxation. Cambridgeshire retailer Jonathan James said via Twitter: “In view of the fact that we trade alongside other independent retailers with small shops, we will not be extending our Sunday trading hours.”